"We were begging and hoping at the last minute [ticket sales] would pick up," says 4th&B owner Ali Niforshan. He pulled the plug on a January 10 "Superstars of the Blues Harp" concert. Besides harmonica player Mark Hummel, who organized the show, Magic Dick (J. Geils), Lee Oskar (War), Jerry Portnoy (Eric Clapton), and Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds) were on the bill. Hours before doors were to open, the musicians learned the show wouldn't go on.
"Our name was still on the marquee when we got there," says Hummel. "We did the same show last year at 4th&B and drew 700.... I had a funny feeling when I first booked it four months ago. Last year they had this really good advertising person named Hester [Hamman]. She did a real good job, but they replaced her."
Why were ticket sales so sluggish?
"It was too close after New Year's," says Niforshan. "It was in the middle of the week. I couldn't give those tickets away, literally. To fill the house we would have to do it with a bunch of homeless people. It would have been embarrassing for [the musicians] to take the stage. It was better to lose money and save face for the artist."
The musicians were paid.
"We got two-thirds of the money of our guarantee," says Hummel. "I reminded the owner that we were way past the 40-day cut-off where they can cancel the show and just give us 50 percent of the guarantee and that we could sue. He said, 'Are you threatening me?' I told him I was just telling him of our legal option." Hummel says he hopes to return to San Diego with a blues-harp fest in October.